"No doubt this excellent man's bid for the Republican nomination was by way of being a romantic gesture," wrote Geoffrey Wheatcroft in The Guardian a couple of months ago. He was referring to Ron Paul.
Today's Washington Post reveals Paul's campaign to have had a more tangible aspect: the candidate appointed his family to run it, and he paid them nearly $170,000 for their efforts:
Paul's granddaughter Valori Pyeatt helps organize fundraising receptions and has been paid $17,157. Another granddaughter, Laura Paul ($2,724), handles orders for Ron Paul merchandise. Grandson Matthew Pyeatt ($3,251) manages Paul's MySpace profile. Daughter Peggy Paul ($2,224) helps with campaign logistics. The candidate's sons Randall and Robert and his daughter Joy Paul LeBlanc have all been paid for campaign travel and for appearing as surrogates at political events. Who keeps track of all these finances? Paul's brother and daughter, naturally, who have been paid a combined $62,740 to handle the campaign's accounting.
Derek Conway will doubtless be wondering what he did wrong.
Also in the Post, note that "Sen. John McCain broke today with President Bush's new policy on North Korea, co-authoring an opinion article with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) in which he called for a return to Bush's original demand of a complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament of North Korea's nuclear programs".
This has to be right. There is a seductive case (advanced cogently here by Morton Abramowitz and Stephen Bosworth) for some sort of grand bargain with Pyongyang - which would probably accomplish the opposite of what its advocates wish for, i.e. it would stimulate tension rather than ameliorate it. I share the views of Christopher Hitchens, in a recent open letter to the President:
It would be pardonable, perhaps, Mr. President, if a slightly dishonorable concession on the human-rights front did in fact lead to a verifiable gain in disarmament and regional security. But by the very same token, it would be unforgivable if a further cynical stalling and postponement of non-proliferation were to be accompanied by an extension of the hellish regime of Kim Jong Il, and of the wretchedness and misery of North Korean life, not a day of which any of us could hope to endure. Your administration can still hope to be remembered for insisting that North Korea cannot be just a little bit nuclear, or partially or incompletely disarmed, as well as for stating boldly that Korea cannot long continue half slave and half free.In The Guardian, the playwright Mark Ravenhill condemns the "carping critics" who engage in "Brecht-bashing". I enjoy a good dose of Brecht-bashing myself, and referred last week to the excellent article by my comrade in this noble venture, Nick Cohen, who is among Ravenhill's targets. In a magnificent non sequitur, Ravenhill invokes Richard Strauss, whose art has many admirers (including me). But Strauss's complicity, at best, with Nazism is universally execrated. Brecht's abominable political record is not popularly regarded in the same way; that is the point. Take Ravenhill's own conclusion, for example:
But Brecht found more in East Germany than a home to make theatre: he believed that the state's system, hugely imperfect as he knew it to be, was the best bulwark against fascism returning to post-war Europe. After the brutal age he had lived through, it's surely a decision we can understand, even if we can't all condone it.
No, it's bloody well not a decision I can understand. The "bulwark against fascism" to which Brecht gave obeisance was headed by Walter Ulbricht. In 1932, Ulbricht had actively co-operated with the Nazis in the Berlin transport strike, which gave crucial impetus in Hitler's rise to power. In 1940, when he was in exile in Stockholm, he had shamelessly betrayed to the Gestapo comrades who had failed to support the party line over the Nazi-Soviet pact. The "imperfect system" that Ulbricht ruled over famously crushed with Soviet tanks a workers' uprising in East Berlin on 17 June 1953. (Documents from the GDR archives reveal that the tanks came at Ulbricht's personal request.) Brecht's response to this brutal repression was to write to Ulbricht pledging loyalty.
It is extraordinary, and it nicely confirms Nick's original point, that a remark such as Ravenhill's can be published in a leading national daily. Ravenhill's judgement is ignorant and toxic, and I'm sorry to see it in a newspaper that professes liberal traditions.